Watermarked

Something tells me I must have seen it before then. The small trailer was far from new. It had served its time on the banks of Steel Bayou and Paw Paw bend at two of the deer camps my father had run. I had visited the latter with him but have no recollection of staying in it there.
My first memory of it was looking at it through a pair of binoculars from the levee along side Deep Bayou. Dad and his friends had just moved it to there to serve as our duck camp. It was stationed next to Strickland Deer camp, set on cinder blocks and at the end of a road that was notoriously bad after even the slightest rain.

Spring rains and heavy snow melt up north had conspired to bring flood waters to its doorstep and in one of the strange social outings only a southerner may understand my father had rounded up some friends and their wives for a ride up through The Delta to see the flooding and check on the camp.

In a caravan of four-wheel drive trucks we had wound our way through the fertile, flooding farmland and from our perch atop the highest ground in the area, the levee, we glassed across the watery landscape to see if the trailer was still high and dry.

While the wives of the waterfowlers spread out a magnificent picnic on the tailgates the men took turns scanning the area with their field glasses and taking pot shots at snakes and other critters that had sought the safety of the levee’s high ground.

How long we lingered I can’t recall. The camp was still a foot or more above the water but with the river forecast to climb over the coming weeks dad and the men he hunted with agreed that the trailer wasn’t going to stay out of its murky path.

They spoke of past floods and pointed out the high water marks on the trunks of trees, each one telling those who knew the exact year of its birth. In The Delta time is measured in uneven increments starting from 1927, the year of The Great Flood. Scientists and the like call them 100 year events, and perhaps that is so when viewed through the long lens of geographical time. But even the floods that do not reach the catastrophic levels of 27 become benchmarks etched into memory by loss, destruction, change and the spirit of oneness displayed as the people of The Delta pull together to fight the inevitable and lend a hand to neighbors.

Floods destroy but they also renew. They renew the rich soil of the farmlands, restock old oxbows long abandoned by a river that we only pretend to control. The also renew our faith in our fellow-man. Rich and poor, black and white, the river on a rise makes no distinction.

So when the waters come it is all hands on deck. Banker, beggar or brother Delta folk stand shoulder to shoulder filling sand bag as the water rises, driving boats out to rescue those stranded and cleaning up and rebuilding once the waters recede. The wake of the flood brings brotherhood.

The waters of ’79 did not spare the camp, though mercifully the damage was mostly superficial. With my first season as a duck hunter approaching my father decided to take me along for the clean-up. To my young mind it was an honor and a rite of passage. I to would be “watermarked” by the recent flood. It marked my entrance into a world that has been the core of my being ever since.

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